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ASU-hosted Army Reserve training seeks to take sustainability to the next level

November 8, 2017

Changing the “sustainability DNA” of their organizations was the mandate given to over 150 military personnel, Department of the Army civilians and contractors during an inaugural training conference hosted by Arizona State University Nov. 6–8. 

During opening conference remarks, Addison D. “Tad” Davis, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for energy, Iinstallations and the environment, called on the  Army Reserve Mission Resilience and Sustainability (ARMRS) training attendees to “do a deep dive” into their organizations to create, transform, and reformat new processes.

“It’s everything from the way which we design buildings to the way which we process our waste water,” Davis said. “So if we can come up with designs and other procedures from an engineering standpoint or otherwise, retooling, rearrange DNA so we have a more sustainable outcome … it’s extremely important.” 

Davis urged the gathered sustainability subject matter experts and program managers to take full advantage of their time at ASU because it’s a unique opportunity.

“When you think about sustainability as a whole, you’re there,” Davis said. “ASU is the center of the sustainability universe in this country.”

In 2006, ASU became the first university in the nation to establish a school dedicated to sustainability, and has since built a reputation for being the leader on the topic.

“We’re very proud of the fact that we were the first, but we don’t let it sit there,” said Christopher Boone, dean of ASU’s School of Sustainability, during his welcome remarks.  “We want to make sure that we’re not only the first in terms of chronology but also first in terms of quality, and I know from speaking with colleagues around the country that’s certainly the case.  We are perceived as the number one university when it comes to sustainability.” 

ARMRS training is designed to bring together all subject matter experts in the areas of energy security, water security, solid waste diversion and environmental quality from across the Army Reserve to encourage collaboration and foster innovation.

Sustainability is not new to the Army Reserve. The organization has made significant strides in the past five years, including reducing its energy use by 17.9 percent in 2016; and through water conservation and efficiency efforts, reduced water use by 51 percent since 2007; but more work remains.  

“I think we’re at the tipping point,” said Paul Wirt, chief of the Army Reserve Sustainability Programs Branch. “We’ve done all the baseline stuff. We’ve done the strategies. We’ve built the programs. But this is the tipping point, what we’re doing this week and our path forward of how to make the Army Reserve even greater.”

Wirt sees this week as a kickoff to a much broader initiative to expand sustainability beyond the four base programs — energy, water, waste and environmental. Sustainability must be factored across the spectrum of activities including land use and natural resources, building facilities, infrastructure, transportation, product lifecycle, etc.

“Finally, the most important component of sustainability is the people aspect of it,” Wirt said. “Everything must be tied to the well being of the people that are part of any organization.”

For Joe Knott, who is an ASU doctoral candidate in the School of Sustainability and retired Army lieutenant colonel, sustainability is also about establishing a standard.

“Paul (Wirt) could walk around the Pentagon and ask ten squared away colonels what sustainability means and he gets ten great answers,” Knott said. “We have to have the base foundation of what role we play in it, and why we do it, and what it is.”

The base foundation is established through education, Knott said. ASU’s School of Sustainability has developed graduate level sustainability courses tailored to raise understanding among more senior civilian leaders and military officers. Without understanding, it becomes difficult to gain fiscal backing for sustainability programs. 

Young people today are better versed in sustainability and such subjects as climate change. They expect green efforts, said Knott. If they see that the Army does not have a strong sustainability culture, it can impact retention. 

“They expect sustainability and doing the right thing in addition to serving their country,” Knott said. “They say ‘what are you as a military organization going to allow me to do to make this earth sustainable for my kids and grandkids?’.”

One of the best possible outcomes from the ARMRS conference for Knott is future collaboration with the Army Reserve. 

“If someone asked me what I thought would be one of the great results of these three days, it’s Paul Wirt’s team working with ASU’s School of Sustainability to develop courses that empower the folks on the ground at the Reserve installations to be sustainable and make that culture change happen," Knott said. 


Top photo: George Basile, professor of practice with ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Institute of Sustainability, speaks about culture change Nov. 7 inside the Memorial Union during the inaugural Army Reserve Mission Resilience and Sustainability training held on Tempe campus. Photo by Jerry Gonzalez/ASU

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

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ASU students have it made in the shade

Shade is key element in ASU student team's winning bus stop design.
Sundial served a inspiration for bus stop design, to provide shade at any time.
November 8, 2017

Phoenix to install 400 bus stops using industrial design quartet's design

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2017, click here.

Four Arizona State University students are about to make the lives of millions of people easier and more comfortable.

There were more than 32 million bus rides taken in Phoenix last year, according to Valley Metro figures. Soon some of those passengers will be waiting at stops designed by the quartet to provide much more shade at all times of day.

“If we can make it easier and make their lives a little better, that’s a good feeling,” team member Ethan Fancher said.

Their new bus stop design won a contest open to industrial design students at ASU last academic year.

Seniors Fancher, Dan Duquette, Derek Smoker and sophomore Erlend Meling — all industrial design majors in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts — worked on the project.

They haven’t even graduated, and they’ve just completed a project any established firm would kill for, in the fifth-biggest city in the country, that will be highly visible to millions of people every day.

“It’s still really surreal,” Fancher said.

“I feel like it’s all downhill from here,” Smoker said.

Bus stop prototype
A prototype of the bus stop that will soon be installed around Phoenix sits on Dan Duquette's desk in ASU’s Design North building. The physical prototype, which is constructed mainly out of wood, was designed by Ethan Fancher, a senior industrial design major. One inch of the model equates to a foot of the finished product. Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now

Their stop looks sleek, but as anyone who has waited for a bus in Phoenix during the summer will tell you, it’s shade that counts.

Shade was the top priority. The stops also had to be ADA-compliant. Being vandal-proof was another necessity.

The stop provides shade no matter what time of day or what angle the sun is striking it. “We took inspiration from a sundial,” Fancher said. “No matter where the sun is, there will always be shade.”

The team ran the design through a computer simulation of 12 hours of sun. It provides shelter at any time of day, when the sun is at any angle.

“They appreciated the thought we put into it,” Fancher said.

There’s an alcove to the side so wheelchair users can wait under cover.

Seating has yet to be decided, but it will be individual, not bench-style. “We found out in research most people won’t sit next to each other on a bench,” Fancher said. “It’s this weird human-nature thing.”

The stops will be made of steel. Colors haven’t been finalized, but the quartet likes a rust finish. Even if it gets vandalized with a Sharpie, it won’t stand out.

Damaged stops will be replaced first, then stops with the highest ridership. Bus stops with no shelter at all will be next on the list. It’s a modular design that can be added to, suiting crowded stops like those in front of high schools.

The city has a five-year plan to have 400 bus stops with their design.

“One of their main focuses is to replace the bus stops with no features with these,” Fancher said.

The team worked on the design for two months. Competition rules limited them to 20 hours of work per week per person. Groups of students competed and presented. The city whittled the choices down to five finalists. Fancher’s team found out they won last May.

After they won, the team met several times with a citizens transportation committee before the design went to the city council for approval.

“It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be,” Smoker said.

“We thought it was going to be very dry,” Fancher said.

There was a considerable amount of back and forth with the citizens committee. “We expected that,” Fancher. “We’re trained for that.”

City councilman Daniel Valenzuela told the team in a meeting that whether they leave or stay in Phoenix, they will always be able to point to their bus stops with pride.


Top photo: ASU industrial design students (from left) Derek Smoker, Erlend Meling, Ethan Fancher and Dan Duquette hold a prototype of the bus stop they designed. Their design will be used for new bus stops around Phoenix. This includes covering stops that do not currently have a structure as well as the new stops that will be created in Phoenix’s bus route expansion. Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now